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Home* News and Stories → Polar bear kil­led by Avi­an flu in Alas­ka

Polar bear kil­led by Avi­an flu in Alas­ka

It is not a good start into the news year 2024.

The news came from Alas­ka: the Avi­an influ­en­za virus is shown to be the cau­se of death of a polar bear for the first time, as the local news­pa­per Alas­ka Bea­con wri­tes.

Polar bear

Poten­ti­al­ly lethal also for him: polar bear in Spits­ber­gen.

Spe­cia­lists of the Divi­si­on of Envi­ron­men­tal Health – Sta­te Vete­ri­na­ri­an say that this did not come as a sur­pri­se, as avi­an flu has kil­led num­e­rous mammals of various spe­ci­es befo­re, inclu­ding various seals, red fox, brown bears, black bears and grizz­ly bears.

In con­trast to ear­lier out­breaks of the Avi­an flu such as in 2014-15, the cur­rent out­break seems to be long-lived and the virus seems capa­ble of long-term sur­vi­val in wild­life popu­la­ti­ons inclu­ding mammals. The cur­rent virus has alre­a­dy had seve­re impacts on sea­bird popu­la­ti­ons in north Nor­way, whe­re main­ly kit­ti­wa­kes were affec­ted, as well as a lar­ge kit­ti­wa­ke colo­ny on the island of Hopen which is part of the Nor­we­gi­an Sval­bard archi­pe­la­go. The virus is also found in the Sou­thern Oce­an, inclu­ding the Falk­land Islands and South Geor­gia; in South Ame­ri­ca, it kil­led lar­ge num­bers of wild ani­mals inclu­ding not only sea­birds but also sea lions, main­ly in Chi­le and Peru, as repor­ted e.g. by the WOAH (World Orga­niza­ti­on for Ani­mal Health).

The health risk for humans is descri­bed as “very low”, but the Avi­an influ­en­za virus has to be con­side­red a long-lived thre­at for wild­life popu­la­ti­ons that are alre­a­dy under pres­su­re from cli­ma­te chan­ge and, in many cases, other thre­ats.

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last modification: 2024-01-03 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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